By Jonathan Ramos
By Juan De Anda
By Mollie McWilliams
By Juan De Anda
By Mollie McWilliams
By Juan De Anda
By Jonathan Curiel
By Alexis Coe
Contraband's Oracle was aptly named: It gave us a prophetic glimpse of San Francisco performance to come. The city's industrial, goth, punk, and club scenes -- all of which influenced Contraband -- have in turn manifested themselves in groups ranging from the pomo-styled club kids of Steamroller to the professionally outre musicians of the now-defunct Idiot Flesh. The AWD collective has all the hallmarks of radical performance. (Gothwear! Strobe lights! Requisite lesbian overtones!) But lacking the kind of bright, subversive humor that gave Contraband's work such an edge, AWD is entertaining only as another post-punk urban carnival, without the benefit of looking fresh.
-- Heather Wisner
Terpsichore in Sneakers
Down Softly and Suit and Skin. Choreography by Wayne Hazzard and Mercy Sidbury and by Kate Weare. Presented by Summerfest/Dance at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida (at 17th Street), July 9 (Summerfest continues through July 26). Call 646-0661.
Modern dance was essentially naked up until the '60s. Costume served as an extension of the body, and the body expressed what modern dance choreographers used to call the "soul." But since then, Terpsichore has just as often worn sneakers, dressing up to dress down social conventions. In Wayne Hazzard and Mercy Sidbury's Down Softly, commissioned last year by the Lesbian and Gay Dance Festival and reprised at Summerfest/Dance, the elaborate costumes expose and cover the dancers. Mimicking life, this electric duet of liberation runs animal desire together with social posturing.
Regal fanfare sounds and a royal-red carpet is unfurled as Hazzard and Sidbury, ensconced in Angelina DeAntonis' swirly colored hoop skirts-cum-beetle shells, wobble into view. Backs to us, heads buried inside gigantic flower collars, they scuttle about to the Charming Hostess' propulsive violins. Their poofy get-ups shade every "Egyptian" profile, vaguely disco shuffle, and Bob Fosse hip thrust toward comic absurdity.
Soon they erupt into wordless animal cackles and the occasional recognizable phrase: "Pretty boy, pretty boy" and later "Coming out! Coming out!" Like anyone copying a new self-image from what he's found around him, the pair resemble parrots. A strong inner impulse may have drawn them to "coming out," but they also mouth the phrase and embrace the idea because it's in the air.
In its tangle of inner desire and cultural borrowing, Down Softly resists the assumption that it's possible to distinguish the one from the other. Kate Weare's Suit and Skin fails to offer that challenge. In her physically nuanced and impeccably delivered duet, the clothes make the woman.
Suit and Skin begins with Weare alone onstage, dressed in a standard-issue gray suit. Her very precise gestures seem to mean something specific -- and you'd better figure out what. With her head cocked toward us confrontationally, she takes on a slippery and predatory intensity.
When Ada Shedlock enters, the two tumble together like wrestlers making love on the mat. Weare ends on top, a calm spreading over limbs and face as Shed-lock lies squashed beneath her. After Weare has rolled over and gone to sleep, Shedlock sheds her jacket and, now topless and a different person, dances longingly in the moonlight.
Suit and Skin returns to two ideas choreographers love too much: first, that we are nothing more than socially constructed ciphers -- scarecrows made out of assorted hats, shoes, bangles, stuffing, and postures to match. And, second, stripped naked, we return to our true selves, just like Rousseau and streaking hippies said we would. Individually these two notions are dubious; paired up, they undo each other completely.
Bare-Breasted and Ready to Rumba. By various authors. Directed by Beth Doyle. Starring Sabrina Alonso, Cynthia Billops, Maria Breaux, and Rae Rea. Presented by Baby Snatching Dingoes at Theater Rhinoceros Studio, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), through July 25. Call 861-5079.
Watching the Baby Snatching Dingoes is a lot like going over to your friend's house to watch a bunch of neighborhood kids put on a show. It won't be very good, but since when is that the point? Bare-Breasted and Ready to Rumba is sketch comedy, written by members of the mostly lesbian group, and the title is pure attitude. Nobody here actually bares her breasts or rumbas. Two people do vogue. Others step-dance, sort of, and two more imitate the Spice Girls. Some sketches work, some don't, and you come away from the whole thing wishing it could have been funnier.
"Juxtapose," for example, is about a pair of young women who decide to go out in public doing old vogue moves. Sabrina Alonso plays straight man, so to speak, as the waitress at a restaurant where the women sit acting weird. Her facial expressions are funny, but the piece goes down like an ill-conceived Saturday Night Live skit. "GangstaRobics" is better, with Cynthia Billops playing a yuppie who shows up for her aerobics class and finds a gangster in charge of the moves, wearing sunglasses and a knit cap. "Y'neck, y'neck," he chants, working through a typical aerobics routine, then, "Slide, slide" -- a rapper moonlighting at 24-Hour Fitness. Maria Breaux does a good job with his voice. And maybe the funniest skit is "Blood Spice," which has both a transvestite (Rae Rea) and Vampyra (Breaux) auditioning to be Spice Girls. The talent scout (Alonso, again trying to keep a straight face) doesn't think it'll work. "I would just as soon make my grandmother a Spice Girl," she says. "We could call her Old Spice."